As this school year is wrapping up, parents with younger children may be wondering how to make sure their kids are ready to succeed in school.

School readiness goes well beyond learning the ABCs and 123s. Kim Meeker, the student services and preschool coordinator at the Summit Educational Service Center, said there are several factors that need evaluated.

"The one big area, it’s not just about knowing your numbers and letters," Meeker said. "It’s about the whole child, the social-emotional aspects."

There is greater emphasis now on problem-solving, resolving conflicts, and a move away from play-based to rigorous academics, Meeker said.

Kristen Nowak, a student services and preschool coordinator, said the social-emotional aspects of child development are a key to a successful classroom experience.

"We know not every kid will know their letters and numbers," Nowak said. "But they can function better if they can follow simple instructions. That was the biggest thing we’ve heard from kindergarten teachers. You can teach the academics, but you need the social-emotional to succeed in class."

How can parents prepare their young children for kindergarten? One big thing they can do, Meeker said, is pick up a book and read to them.

"It’s really critical for parents to take the 15 minutes to read to their child," Meeker said. "That interaction is critical."

Nowak said reading to children not only exposes them to the words and vocabulary in a story, but teaches them important skills such as how to handle a book, how to turn the pages, and how to properly read the words on the pages.

"The things you can do from home are huge," Nowak said. "Even driving in the car, play a game like identifying letters and numbers on street signs."

Laura DiCola, early childhood strategy leader with the Summit Education Initiative, agreed. According to studies SEI has done, only 65 percent of children in Summit County have the skills needed to succeed in kindergarten.

The skills learned before kindergarten not only are crucial for the early years, but for the rest of a student’s school career as well. Kindergarten children who are ready to advance by the end of their school year "are two times more likely to pass the third grade reading guarantee," she said.

"Those who are not ready are five times less likely not to pass the third grade reading. Having them ready will set them up to be reading at or above the third grade level, which sets them up for life."

Reading, having "language rich conversations," singing, and reciting nursery rhymes from birth are critical to "ensure their child’s success," DiCola said.

DiCola said there are many tools and resources available to help parents and their younger children get ready for schooling. One is the 16 for Success, a handout with a checklist of the 16 skills young children should have by their first day in kindergarten. This handout is available in 10 languages and is available through the SEI.

For details, visit www.seisummit.org online.

"A companion piece was done through the Akron-Summit County Public Library," DiCola said. "With the 16 skills are a list of several books parents can check out to reinforce those areas. That’s a really cool list."

Speaking of libraries, DiCola said libraries themselves offer a treasure trove of resources and opportunities.

"Libraries offer a ton of things," she said. "The staff at the library can help find books and toys that are age-appropriate."

In addition, libraries host preschool reading events and other activities for families, she said.

Parents also can get a 16 for Success kit, which is a small backpack with the list, a book, a game and other materials to help reinforce needed skills through play, DiCola said.

"By playing these games, they are reinforcing these skills," she said.

These kits are distributed through preschools, Head Start, the local YMCAs and often at parents nights for kindergarten registration, DiCola said.

Parents in Summit County also are encouraged to sign up for the Imagination Library through the United Way of Summit County, DiCola said. This program mails free books to children from birth to 5 years old. For details, visit http://www.uwsummit.org/programs/imagination-library online, or call 330-643-5510.

Another critical thing parents can do to help get their children ready for academics is to register for kindergarten as soon as possible so they can get to know their district and the resources they have available, DiCola said. Kindergarten registration does not happen automatically if a child is registered in preschool, she added.

"Take advantage of those open registration nights," she said. "Register early, well before August."

Debra McNair, director of teaching and learning in Cuyahoga Falls, said parents also need to make sure their child’s immunizations are up to date before they enter kindergarten. She added that parents can visit www.ode.state.oh.us to review the list of the early learning standards.

"These birth through kindergarten Entry Learning and Development Standards describe key concepts and skills that young children develop during the birth-to-five-year period," McNair said. "Parents are their child’s first and most important teachers. The three Transition Skills that are being targeted to support children’s transition to kindergarten include rhyming, comparing quantities and social problem solving."

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??

Kindergarten Registration information

• In Nordonia Hills, children enrolling for kindergarten must be 5 years old by Aug. 1. For details about enrolling or early entrance, call the pupil services department at 330-468-4600.

Parents wishing to enroll can schedule an appointment by calling 330-467-0580. They also can attend Kindergarten Registration Night April 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Board of Education Office, 9370 Olde Eight Road in Northfield Center. Call the district or visit www.nordoniaschools.org for details on forms needed to register.

• The Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools will have a parent information night March 22 at 6 p.m. in the Kimpton Middle School auditorium, 380 N. River Road in Munroe Falls. Children must be 5 years old on or before Aug. 1. Parents wishing to enroll their children early need to submit an early entrance to to kindergarten packet, and their child needs to complete an early entrance testing, which is in early May or June. Parents can visit smfschools.org online starting March 23 for details on kindergarten registration if they cannot attend the information night.

• Children enrolling for kindergarten in the Tallmadge Schools must be 5 years old by Aug. 1. The school district will host its annual Kindergarten Registration Night April 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Dunbar Primary School, 731 Dunbar Road. Visit www.tallmadgeschools.org for details on registering. Parents also can set up a time for kindergarten screening for their child; the screening will take place in late April.

• In the Cuyahoga Falls City School District, a child must be 5 years old on or before Aug. 1. A younger child may be admitted if he or she passes the district’s early entrance criteria. Call 330-926-3800, ext. 502040 to make an appointment to register. Hours for registration are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Board Office, 431 Stow Ave. Call or visit www.cfalls.org for details and for what documentation is needed.

• Children registering for kindergarten in the Woodridge Local School District must be 5 years old on or before Aug. 1. Call 330--928-9074 to schedule an appointment to register. Visit www.woodridge.k12.oh.us for details on the forms needed and online registration.

• In the Hudson City School District, a child must be 5 years old by Sept. 30 to enroll in kindergarten. Online preregistration is available through www.hudson.k12.oh.us, through the Evamere webpage. For details, call Evanmere at 330-653-1226. Parent Orientation is April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Hudson Middle School, 77 N. Oviatt St.

• In the Twinsburg City School district, registration dates by appointment are May 8 through 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Students must be 5 years old on or before Aug. 1 to enroll. Those born between Aug. 2 and Dec. 31 are eligible for an early entrance evaluation. For details, visit www.twinsburg.k12.oh.us online or call 330-486-2030.